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You Can Look, But Don't Touch

Wildlife Officials Say 'Leave Fawns Alone'

Don't fawn over the fawn if you see one on your lawn. That's the plea of Fairfax County Wildlife Biologist Earl Hodnett.

"We've been receiving a constant stream of deer fawns being brought to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter by well-intentioned citizens," Hodnett said. "But, most are not injured or lost. They're just doing their natural thing at this time of year."

That natural thing is wandering from the doe and finding a place to hide and be alone until it's time to feed again. "Fawns spend about 92 percent of their time away from the mother unless they are feeding. They are usually in a hiding place most of the day."

He further explained, "Unless people actually see that the mother is dead or injured or the fawn is injured, there's no need to rescue them. They communicate by sound and will determine where and when to get back together.

"Once any wildlife comes under the care of humans, they are rarely able to merge back into the wild. We don't have the means to teach them their natural survival instincts."

HODNETT ATTRIBUTES the increase in sightings and "rescues" to the population growth and housing expansion combined with the deer wandering onto human living space.

"One fawn was bedded down in a backyard and was brought in by the resident who mistakenly assumed it was lost. The fawn had just decided that yard was a good place to hide out," he explained.

Most fawns are born between mid-May and mid-June, according to Hodnett. That's why the contacts are higher right now. "We've had five brought in in the last two weeks," he said. "Usually by the end of June they are too big and fast to allow people to catch them."

Hodnett also noted, "It's not just fawns that should be left alone. It applies to almost all wildlife, particularly baby birds. Most people don't realize that birds naturally leave the nest before they can fly.

"The only time they should be rescued is if you know there are cats or other animals around that may get after them. Then you should just put them back into a tree high enough for them to be safe. It's an old wives tale that birds will smell the human scent on babies and ignore them. Birds can hardly smell at all let alone make that distinction."

HODNETT SAID THEY have had deer brought in from throughout the county. "We've had them from Lorton, Great Falls, Reston, Fairfax, and all over. But we are not the only ones getting the fawns. All animal shelters throughout the area, plus fire departments, game wardens, park personnel, have reported an increase in people bringing them in," he said.

Hodnett's office is located at 4500 West Ox Road. His phone number is 703-266-3523. If people spot a fawn or any wildlife about which they have a question, Hodnett urges them to call and verify the situation before doing anything.